Quotations about   reason

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Be not afraid! In admitting a creator, refuse not to examine his creation; and take not the assertions of creatures like yourselves, in place of the evidence of your senses and the conviction of your understanding.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3, “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
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But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people being aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
“The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)
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I must intreat your patience — your gentle hearing. I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine; enquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the ground of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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Every man has a certain sphere of discretion, which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man. First, all men are fallible: no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions. If every one be desirous of imposing his sense upon others, it will at last come to be a controversy, not of reason, but of force.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
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What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Philosophical Dictionary, “Madness” (1764)
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There may be no good reason for things to be the way they are.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 1 “Consolations for Unpopularity,” sec. 4 (2000)
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Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“On Stupidity” (1942)
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Prejudices are what fools use for reason.

voltaire-prejudices-fool-reason-wist_info

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
(Attributed)
Added on 6-Dec-16 | Last updated 6-Dec-16
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Reason! reason! … As much as you like; but beware of thinking that it answers to everything, suffices for everything, satisfies everything. This mother loses her child: will reason comfort her? Does cool reason counsel the inspired poet, the heroic warrior, the lover? Reason guides but a small part of man, and that the least interesting. The rest obeys feeling, true or false, and passion, good or bad.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, ch. 4, #95 (1886)
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Under the guidance of reason, we should pursue the greater of two goods, and the lesser of two evils.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) Dutch philosopher
Ethics, “Reason and Desire” (1677) [tr. Runes (1957)]
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God created Reason, and it was the most beautiful being in his creation: and God said to it, “I have not created anything better or more perfect or more beautiful than thou: blessings will come down on mankind on thy account, and they will be judged according to the use they make of thee.”

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
Hadith
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In Syed Ameer Ali, A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Mohammed (1873), cited to The Kitâb-ul-Mustarif, ch. 2, and The Mishkât, Bk 22, ch. 18, pt. 3 (from Abu Hurairah)
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Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Sometimes I wonder whether if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Leslie May my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
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The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason.
The passionless cannot change history.

Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) Polish-Lithuanian poet, essayist, diplomat
“The Child of Europe” (1946)
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Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Letter to a Young Clergyman” (9 Jan 1720)
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The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1758)
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Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jun 1734)
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The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15 “The Value of Philosophy” (1912)
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The facts are indispensable; they are not sufficient. To solve a problem it is necessary to think.

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) American educator, educational philosopher, administrator
Great Books: The Foundation of a Liberal Education (1954)
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You can’t reason someone out of an idea they weren’t reasoned into.

Sig Lines
~
Added on 16-Jan-15 | Last updated 16-Jan-15
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The ruling passion, be it what it will,
The ruling passion conquers reason still.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
Moral Essays 3.153 (1731-1735)
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Reason is incompetent to answer any fundamental questions about God, or morality, or the meaning of life.

Carl L. Becker (1873-1945) American historian
The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (1932)
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The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions. These are the wreckers of outworn empires and civilisations, doubters, disintegrators, deiciders.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
“Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” speech, Cambridge (24 Feb 1923)
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If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262 (1932) [dissent]
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Faith is not fearful of reason; on the contrary, it seeks and trusts reason, since “the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God” and cannot contradict each other.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 203 (24 Nov 2013)
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Quoted section is Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, 7.
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Rationality is not one of humanity’s strong points.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Ghost Brigades, ch. 5 (2006)
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Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
(Spurious)
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Frequently attributed without citation, and not found in Johnson's works.  However, the phrase can be found in other contexts:

  • "This objection on the score of color is founded upon prejudice, and hence cannot be removed by argument, for prejudice is blind and listens not to reason." -- Rep. Godlove S. Orth of Indiana, speech before the House of Representatives (5 Apr 1869) on the question of admitting the Dominican Republic as a US territory.
  • "This persuasion of the power of the priest is, as we have said, a traditional prejudice; it is not founded on any reasons or proofs addressed to the understanding, and therefore it cannot be removed by argument." -- John Eliot Howard, The Island of the Saints (1855), quoting from the Achill Herald (Jun 1855).

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Value of the Skeptic is the resistance to premature conclusions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1845)
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Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“Shorts” (1974)
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Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals [Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten] (1785)
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There is hardly any error into which men may not easily be led if they base their conduct upon reason only.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon, ch. 21 (1872)
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Some men covet knowledge out of a natural curiosity and inquisitive temper; some to entertain the mind with variety and delight; some for ornament and reputation; some for victory and contention; many for lucre and a livelihood; and but very few for employing the Divine gift of reason to the use and benefit of mankind.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 3, ch. 1 (1605)
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Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” Christian Century (13 Apr 1960)
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To live is like to love — all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Life and Love” (1912)
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Added on 27-Nov-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Anyone who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but his memory.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Notebooks (c. 1500) [tr. Richter]

Alt. trans.: "The one who relies on authority during a discussion does not use his mind but his memory."
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You can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
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If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin in doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 1, ch. 5, sec. 8 (1605)

Alt trans. (Willey Book ed., (1944)): "If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubts, and are patient with them, we shall end in certainties."
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A man always has two reasons for what he does — a good one, and the real one.

John Pierpont "J. P." Morgan (1837-1913) American banker and financier
(Attributed)

Quoted in Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, p. 280 (1930). There's no record in Morgan's writings, and versions of the quote from others can be found in the early 1800s. See here for more details.

Sometimes given as "A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good, and a real one."
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I stir in it for the sad reason that no other mortal will move, and if I do not, why, it is left undone. The amount of it, be sure, is merely a Scream; but sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1838)

Referring to his attempts to stop the US Government's forced expulsion of the Cherokee from their land.
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People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
“The New Generations and Morality,” The Illustrated London News (9 Mar 1929)
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